February 5th, 2016
MDRS Crew 12: Team ISUMission Summary Report
Team ISU has successfully closed out their second rotation at MDRS, comprised of two weeks of intense research, team building and simulation training on Mars. Our team of highly motivated scientists, engineers and thinkers from around the world were well prepared for a variety of challenges and dealt extremely well with extreme winter weather, small crew size and multiple external media visits of “visiting vehicle” crewmembers. We are finishing these two weeks with pride in our work and excitement about our next steps.
Our team holds unique graduate degrees from the International Space University Masters and Space Studies Programs. This distinguished university has provided all of us with a shared life experience that has shaped our collective careers in the space industry. We share a passion for space research, engineering, architecture, mission design and exploration that unites us as a tightly bonded team of space adventurers.
Most importantly, we understand the need to support each other while collaborating on a common mission objective. Our diverse backgrounds provide us with an interdisciplinary problem-solving approach. The first Mars colony will undoubtedly be an international collaboration. Culture sharing was an important part of our two-week stay at MDRS as we cooked, shared language and music during our down time. We plan to publicize our mission in each of our home countries and we will leave the habitat with 3 incredible life experiences that we will share when we get home.
· To productively function as an international, interdisciplinary team of scientists and engineers
· To gain team and individual experience in a Mars analog simulation
· To learn from the team’s collective background and experiences
· To produce a scientifically publishable report, including experimental results
· To promote awareness and passion for space exploration via education and outreach
· To conduct engaging experiments that will be shared on the team website
· To share with the public how research is conducted in an analog situation
· To open the communication channels between the research community and general public
· To fully utilize the Musk Observatory for high-caliber astronomical observations
· To study crew group dynamics of a Mars analog mission
· To develop conference-worthy abstract submissions for the work done in this field season
Summary of Research Experiments
1. Sociomapping Experiment: A survey based study on group dynamics of the crew during the analog simulation
This experiment looked at group interactions for the reason of predicting potential conflicts in the team by assessing the patterns of communication and cooperation. This study was previously conducted with high success during other analog missions, including Mars 500 and MDRS Crew 147.
Every other day, a questionnaire was delivered electronically to each crewmember pertaining questions related to communication, cooperation, work knowledge, atmosphere in the team, and perceived team performance. At approximately the half-way mark of the mission, an interim result was provided to the commander. Understanding the team dynamics could help the commander intervene and mitigate any interpersonal or team-level crises, if necessary. The data gathered during the current rotation proved that the crew was working in a very effective manner. Further testing of the Sociomapping metric could provide useful data that could be applicable to future analyses of team dynamics on Earth or in space.
2. Astronomy For Students: Educational Outreach From Mars
We proposed use of the Musk Observatory at MDRS to demonstrate field techniques for remote astronomical observations including how to read star maps, a virtual tour of the solar system, astrophotography and how the stars help us understand life on Earth and in the Universe. However, extreme winter weather including heavy snow, cloudy skies, below freezing temperatures, and an accidental lockout of the observatory for 6 days prevented full use of the capabilities for outreach. We were able to perform systems checks and report back to the MDRS astronomy team but did not acquire any useable images with the telescope’s CCD camera.
3. Spanish Language Video: Mars Analogs Outreach
This outreach video was proposed when we realized there was no previous Mars Analogs -MDRS- videos in Spanish language. As Spanish is the native language of one of our crew members, we decided to film a mini documentary about Mars Analogs and about our rotation here at MDRS.
At the end of our rotation, we not only filmed a Spanish mini-documentary, but we also spent one day filming interviews for FOX News, one day photographing and explaining the facilities to a Scottish photographer, we filmed our rotation video, we filmed videos for ISU students back in Strasbourg, France, and we also answered some video-questions to the general public. Indeed, we have performed a lot of outreach during our rotation, and that is amazing because we all know that space outreach is very important for human space exploration, so we spread the reasons why space science is worth investing in, and all the benefits that come with it. We need to involve everyone if one day we want to successfully have a manned mission to Mars, not only scientists, but general public, industry, schools, and politicians.
In our documentaries, we explain our living quarters, how it is to cook on Mars, how we sleep, how we manage our water systems, the engineering and scientific capabilities that we have here like 3D printing, plant growth, rovers, astrobiology and so on. We hope this helps to spread the word even broader than before.
4. 3D Printing Technology Demonstration:
Here at MDRS, we have the capability of using 3D printing. We received a brand new 3D printer, property of the Mars Society, and we got the chance to install and test it. This technology has been very important in the last few years, as it allows us to create tools and elements by just having a software model of them. This technology has been tested onboard of the International Space Station, and there is no problem with modified versions of these machines working in zero gravity. This is a milestone for Mars missions, as it will be very useful to bring a 3D printer with us on Mars to print tools, replacement parts and maybe even one day structural components for future habitats as well as food.
During our stay, we 3D printed a ratchet wrench, the same that has been tested onboard of the ISS. We also tried with a small spaceship and worked on calibrating and understanding the printing system. If we go to Mars and something breaks, or we run out of spares, we can just make use of this technology and continue with our mission, instead of waiting for a re-supply or delaying experiment progress. Something like Star Trek technology! We think this is really cool.
5. Project Stardust
This collaborative meteorological investigation of micrometeorite samples collected from field sites all over the world now includes samples taken from MDRS. We collected field samples from loose topsoil (<0.5 in) from hilltops surrounding the habitat, filtered, separated and imaged potential micrometeorites other spherules ranging in size from 50 µm to 2 mm, both extraterrestrial (iron ore-containing), terrestrial and anthropogenic that have fallen through the atmosphere and landed on Earth’s surface. Soil samples in a range of particle sizes were bagged and labeled for submission to the principal investigator for further analysis by scanning electron microscope, which we do not have access to here.
We are very excited to bring this project to MDRS because micrometeoroids contribute to the composition of regolith (planetary/lunar soil) on other bodies in the Solar System, not just Earth. Mars has an estimated annual micrometeoroid influx of between 2,700 and 59,000 t/yr. This contributes about 1 m of micrometeoritic content to the depth of the Martian regolith each billion years. These types of analyses on Earth help us understand how the solar system was formed as we venture out to explore it.
6. In-situ testing of VEGGIE prototype plant growth hardware: Orbital Aquifer System for Veggie (OASYS) and Active Veggie Watering System
We propose to bring a GreenHab experiment that tested two new prototype vegetation systems, invented by NASA KSC scientists, for watering plants in reduced gravity environments. Tokyo cabbage is an ideal vegetable for this demonstration as it is quick to grow and easy to germinate from seeds. We were limited in temperature, humidity and light control within the temporary growth facility, since the new GreenHab is not yet finished. The OASYS system proved the effective germination and 1cm growth of 8 seedlings from 4 of the 6 plant pillows. The Active Watering System demonstrated effective germination and 3.0+ cm growth of 15 seedlings from 6 of the 6 plant boxes. Photos and data were sent to the principal investigators who rated this to be a positive test of the hardware.
In conclusion, we consider our mission to be a success. What brings this team together is our common dream of space exploration. After spending one year abroad in Strasbourg, France, our crew understands the importance of defining roles within a team and have learned to cope with high-stress situations in small living spaces. Completing a mission together at MDRS has challenged us to improve our professional communication while expanding our friendships.
We would like to extend our gratitude to the MDRS Mission Support Team who have supported our crew every evening during the Comms window. Special thanks goes to Shannon Rupert, DG Luskow, Randy Dunning, Peter Detterline, Judd Reed, Nick Orenstein, Ken Sullivan, Jean Hunter, Sheryl Bishop, Anushree Srivastava, Darrel Robertson, Miguel Cooper, Bernard Dubb, Michael Stoltz, Paul Bakken, Chris Welch, Volker Damann, Geraldine Moser, Paivi Mcintosh, Joshua Nelson, the ISU 2016 Master’s Class, Dr. Robert Zubrin and the Mars Society, The Musk Foundation and MDRS Crew 147.